Bill Kirchner, An Evening Of Indigos (JazzHeads)
Soprano saxophonist and composer Kirchner’s concert in New York a year ago has appeared in its entirety as an album. Kirchner overcame daunting physical problems to be able to play the concert—indeed, to be able to play at all. Throughout the jazz community it is known that removal of a tumor on his spinal cord kept him alive but also left him with a limp and with his right hand all but immobilized. In DownBeat magazine’s Pro Session column, Kirchner tells in fascinating detail what he and two ingenious technicians achieved in rebuilding his saxophone to allow him to compensate for the lack of function in three of his fingers. The November DownBeat is on newsstands and in the mail to subscribers. It is not available online.
For his concert at Manhattan’s New School, where he has taught for years, Kirchner played with pianist Carlton Holmes, bassist Jim Ferguson and vocalist Holli Ross. In the Rifftides review of the concert, I wrote that it was “remarkable for its lyricism, musicianship, restraint and the unity of the musicians.” For an hour and a half, Kirchner and his friends maintained an atmosphere of lyricism and intimacy in a repertoire of ballads that included several with his words and music. His compositions are in good company with others by Burt Bacharach, Antonio Carlos Jobim/Gene Lees and Rodgers and Hart.
Ferguson, undiscovered by many despite his artistry, sang as well as he played. His “Save Your Love For Me” is one of the most moving versions of the Buddy Johnson classic ever put on a recording. Ms. Ross is superb throughout, notably so in Kirchner’s and Loonis McGlohon’s “I Almost Said Goodbye.” Though no one sings Rodgers and Hart’s “He Was Too Good To Me,” Kirchner’s tone and phrasing convey the heartbreak of the song. The piece ends the album. Nothing could have followed it. This Rifftides post from last November discusses the concert, and links to an entry from Marc Myers’ JazzWax that incorporates the concert video.